The New York Rangers have battled through defensively without two of their top four defenders in the last five games, but that appears ready to change tomorrow night. Michael Sauer told reporters today that he expects to be in the lineup tomorrow for the first time since October 8 against Anaheim. This is a huge help to the defensive corps as Sauer was the steadiest defender on the club last season and while his presence does not show up in the boxscore often he does plenty of things on the ice to make himself known. This should help ease the burden on Girardi and McDonagh while solidifying the second defensive pair for the Rangers.
What would Rangers game be without some new lines heading into it? With the offense continuing to struggle to generate not only goals, but consistent pressure coach John Tortorella has mixed up the lines once again. Lines via Steve Zipay:
Fedotenko - Richards – Gaborik
Stepan - Dubinsky - Callahan
Wolski - Boyle - Prust
Newbury - Anisimov - Rupp/Christensen
The top two lines are solid as Fedotenko’s grit should help the Richards, Gaborik line possess the puck more in the offensive zone and create chances. Stepan brings his playmaking ability to Dubinsky and Callahan, while all three are trying to get their games going this season.
The bottom six is less certain for me as Anisimov on the fourth line is not good for him at this stage of his development. It was fine two years ago to protect him and let him come along slowly, but playing with Newbury and Rupp is not going to help him now, especially if Torts uses his fourth line as little as normal.
Wolski needs to bring the Rangers offense or he is not worth the price they are paying him, and it is unclear if he will do that with a more grinding type pair in Boyle and Prust. Putting Anisimov between Boyle and Prust is something I would like to see them try as Anisimov has excelled in the past with physical players, Boyle gets more freedom on the wing to play in the corners and all three guys can score. However, if Fedotenko sticks on the top line it would mean wasting Wolski on the fourth line. Rangers once again are still searching for combinations that work.
Rupp didnt practice today, as was the case before Winnipeg, but is expected to go tomorrow.